Jesus had a lot to say about forgiving one another. He taught us how to forgive, when to forgive, what to do until we forgive, and how many times we are to forgive someone for hurting us.
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. - Mat 18:21-22
The number seven represents completeness and achievement and has a meaning of spiritual perfection. For anything to become perfected, it must be practiced over and over. So, Jesus said, forgive as many times as it takes to perfect it! While this is not an easy thing to do and can sometimes even be discouraging, it is a command. We must be the kind of people who will forgive any offense because forgiveness brings freedom. Forgiving someone does not determine an individual’s state of innocence or guilt. Forgiving someone allows God to do what He needs to do in a person’s life so that the offender can repent and walk righteously.
A man named King David, in the Bible, prayed to God and asked Him to create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psa 51:10 If we were to ask God to do this in us we can be sure that He will show us the true condition of our heart. If you want to ascend into the hill of the LORD, which represents a deeper relationship with God, then you must be found with a pure heart and clean hands. Unforgiveness contaminates the soul and blocks the pure flow of the Holy Spirit from being released in a person. To have a pure heart, one must be perfected in the art of forgiving.
It is so important to God that we walk in forgiveness that Jesus said, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. - Mat 5:23-24 NKJV
Tithes, offerings, and gifts are unwelcomed if we bring them with a contaminated heart of unforgiveness or bitterness. Jesus said if you remember that someone has something against you go reconcile. That person may have something against you that you did not do but you are required to at least make an effort at reconciliation first.
Tormenting Spirits Attach to Unforgiveness
In a parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. The king was going to sell a man’s wife and children in exchange for his debt of ten thousand talents, but the man begged and asked the master to have patience with him. The king was moved with compassion and released him and forgave his debt. The story goes on to say that the man who had been absolved of his debt went to someone who owed him much less money in order to collect. The man begged for time, but he would not release him from his debt but instead threw the man in prison.
When this man’s servants saw what he did, they were grieved and told the king their master. 32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." - Mat 18:32-35 NKJV
There are consequences to not forgiving another. Jesus says we have to forgive so that we can be free from torment! Unforgiveness is torment. Unforgiveness is a result of brokenness, usually at the hands of another. It leads to bitterness and bitterness defiles many as well as rots the bones. When we forgive someone, we are trusting God to deal with the offense and heal our hearts. Forgiving each other is also a form of spiritual warfare because we are submitting to God while resisting the devil’s temptation to get even with the offender.
Master the Art of Forgiveness
When I heard these words while in prayer, I didn’t understand how there could be an art of forgiving but look what the word art means. Dictionary.com defines art as "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance." In the eyes of the Father, it is a beautiful expression of His love when we choose forgiving an offense verses holding another hostage to the event that caused the offense. Forgiving someone represents our ability to walk in God’s love even when we are in emotional pain.
Wickedness does not forgive but love does. Righteous does not hold an offense but bitterness does. We are commanded to love. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. - Jhn 13:34
The art to forgiving someone starts with acquiring a humble and lowly position before the LORD. The LORD [is] near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. - Psa 34:18 When a person is walking closely with God through worship, prayer, reading and confessing His word, humility comes, and forgiveness can be perfected.
26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. - Eph 4:26-27 We can be angry for the right reasons, but if we sin in the anger, we open the door to the devil. This open door often starts with one drop of poisonous unforgiveness. After a while of allowing the infectious poison of unforgiveness to brew in our hearts, our whole being can become contaminated. The infection of unforgiveness is then twisted with the devils’ desire to bring dysfunction into all of your relationships and destruction is unavoidable.
Another result of a person being unable to forgive is gossip. The offended person will talk about the offender which will lead to gossip and perhaps grow to slanderous lies causing division. For Christians, God calls this sin an abomination (Proverbs 6).
Forgiving Takes Work
Some wounds can cause a lifetime of consequences, such as an adulterous affair that ends in divorce. When there are children involved the entire family is forever split, always reminding those involved in the sin of their actions that caused the family split. Some people can move on and continue living in their world and not recognize the fallout from divorce and perhaps even hardening their hearts from the reality of their situation. God hates divorce. He hates it because of the wake of devastating destruction it leads behind.
Thankfully, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and love Him. There is forgiveness of sin and redemption. Jesus Christ came to bind the wounds – stop the bleeding, and heal the broken-hearted. While this healing can take time, it is achievable in Christ because with God all things are possible.
Frequent Heart Checks
We must return to the Lord for healing over past hurts. Forgiving over and over those who afflicted our souls until the love of God reaches the very bottom of the pit where the root of the wound is. In this manner, we deflect a bitter root judgment, keeping us pure and undefiled. Because Satan desires to use an offense to destroy relationships, we must be wise and forgive.
So, how many times do you forgive someone for the same offense? Until it doesn’t hurt anymore and you can bless them.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the blood of Jesus Christ that is faithful to cleanse me from all unrighteousness when I approach You with a broken and contrite spirit. When I bring offenses to You, I am assured through Your word that You will take care of the situation. Help me to walk in a lifestyle of forgiveness not be offended. Help me be alert to my words and deeds being sensitive to not to hurt another. I repent of all unforgiveness and bitterness that I have harbored towards anybody, including myself. I bless everyone who has betrayed me or hurt me in anyway and I pray Your will be done in their lives. I command every assignment of a bitter spirit to release me now and ask that You would fill me up with Your Holy Spirit so that I can successfully forgive until I have perfected the art of forgiveness. I declare my love for You God is of more value than my need to hold an offense or be right. In Jesus name, Amen